Intelligent Design, Faith and Science: Prof Ormerod helps out

I have just finished reading an excellent article by Professor Neil Ormerod called “Intelligent Design: the last gasp of the God of the Gaps”. He sent this article to me personally, and it isn’t available on the web, but a shorter synthesis of it can be found in his Nov 15, 2005, Sydney Morning Herald article “How design supporters insult God’s intelligence” () .

In any case, if you google “intelligent design” and “ormerod”, you will find lots of neat stuff, including this edition of Ethics Education (Vol 11, no. 2) which is all about ID and its ramifications.

Also extremely useful is this week’s “All Things Catholic” in which John Allen does us the great service of gathering together Benedict XVI’s various ruminations on the matter. (Benedict met with his Schülerkreis this weekend to discuss Evolution and Creation.)

In any case, with his help I feel that I have just about sorted the whole matter out sufficiently and satisfactorily for myself.

I used to use the example of faith and science as the two parallel rails of a railway track, held together at a constantly equal distance by the wooden sleepers. You can’t have a [conventional] railway without both rails. The two rails run perfectly parallel in the same direction, but never cross. If you try to bring them together, or if you try to pull them apart, you derail the train. Yet, while they never meet, if you look down the line toward the horizon, they seem to meet at a point somewhere faraway. Both rails will eventually arrive at the same destination.

As a metaphor, I still think that is quite good. But there is a level at which the discussion can take place and make some real sense, and that is at the level of metaphysics. This is what Prof. Ormerod’s work has helped me to understand.

It is a truism to say that Creationism is bad theology and Evolutionism (the ideological version of evolutionary science which claims to disprove the existence of God) is bad science.

Some things can be said:

1) God not only can but does use statistical chance (otherwise known in classical philosophy as “contingency”) to achieve his intended plans—in which case contingency is a secondary cause whereas God is the primary cause of being itself
Thus, the existence of Creator cannot be disproved on the basis of any scientific theory of origins positing random causality;

2) The cosmos is plainly “intelligible” (even in its randomness and chaos, it is not absurd—we can make sense of it), otherwise science itself would be impossible
Thus, through reflection at the level of metaphysics one can identify an “intelligent cause” behind the cosmos, and this “intelligent cause” is, as Thomas Aquinas put it, “what everyone calls ‘God’”.

3) The previous conclusion cannot be demonstrated scientifically (as the proponents of Intelligent Design would have us believe), but science would not be possible if it were not so.

4) Thus there is no necessary divide between science and faith, as long as science does not stray into metaphysics and faith does not stray into science.

And I am pretty comfortable with that.

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2 Responses to Intelligent Design, Faith and Science: Prof Ormerod helps out

  1. Andrew says:

    I like the railway track metaphor, but I wonder whether it’s really a matter of distinguishing between faith and science, as you put it. It seems that much of the confusion in the ID debate has to do with a wholesale rejection of the claims of metaphysics by one side, and a confusion of science and metaphysics by the other. It’s not a matter of faith and science, but rather of metaphysics and science — these are the twin rails of reason running along distinct but parallel paths toward the same ultimate truth, in addition and also parallel to which is the distinct track of faith.

  2. Schütz says:

    Maybe, to continue the metaphor, we could say that metaphysics acts as the “sleepers” in the railway track that connects the rails of science and faith. We can discuss metaphysics from the launching pad of either science and faith, although it belongs intrinsically to neither. A discussion of the relationship between science and faith is a metaphysical discussion.

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